07 June 2018

Tackling issues flagged during Men’s Health Week

With the focus of Men’s Health Week, commencing 11 June, being on diabetes, The Health Insurance Group is shining the spotlight on how employers can support and address the issue. One in ten men now have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes* and they are 26% more likely than women to develop Type 2 diabetes. Whilst workplaces can’t provide the answer to tackling this alone - they can be part of the solution.

Helping to choose healthy

According to NHS data, the main cause of Type 2 diabetes is being overweight, and nearly 68% of adult males in England fall into this category. Lifestyle changes, including healthier eating and exercise, are required, and one area that can support this is the workplace. Work cultures that encourage networking through late night drinking, regular staff cake sales and office canteens full of unhealthy options – for example - may be exacerbating the issue. Whilst organisations don’t want to take all the fun out of the workplace, it’s important to consider unhealthy practices, and focus on supporting individuals in managing their health more effectively. Free fruit in the office, nutrition talks and social sport activity days, instead of networking in the pub, are some of the ways employers can encourage healthier lifestyles.

Health checks

Men are less likely to visit their doctor than women**, and this can reduce the opportunity for early diagnosis of diabetes. The ramifications of this are significant; men are more likely to suffer from diabetes, twice as likely to have complications including foot ulcers, more likely to require an amputation, and twice as likely to die prematurely***. With obesity being identified as a main cause of diabetes, alongside evidence suggesting men prefer weight loss programmes targeted for them****, employers can play a key role in tailoring healthcare programmes to men more effectively. For example, encouraging men to take more interest in their health and improve their eating habits through health check-ups and healthy eating workshops, both of which can be provided in the workplace.

Holistic approach to health

Whilst Men’s Health Week this year focuses on diabetes, it’s important to take an holistic approach when it comes to thinking about health. Taking the physical aside, a significant focus in the press this year has been on mental health – with the Samaritans highlighting that the single biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 in the UK is suicide. Exercise and mental wellbeing are intrinsically linked, with the Department of Health finding that being physically active can reduce someone’s risk of depression by up to 30%. Creating a workplace, where employees are encouraged to stay healthy – both mentally and physically – should be a key priority for businesses.

Brett Hill, Managing Director, The Health Insurance Group said: “Men, in particular, mustn’t stick their heads in the sand about health concerns but, instead, take every opportunity offered to them. This might include health screening, GP check-ups or online assessments that can highlight critical lifestyle changes to enable them to look after themselves. Whether that is having medical tests to support early diagnosis with conditions like diabetes, or identifying mental health concerns that would benefit from intervention, employee benefits are there to support individuals at every stage of their health.

“For employers, healthcare benefits act as a great attraction and retention tool, providing ongoing support to employees when they need it the most. With Men’s Health Week shining a spotlight on gender-specific health issues, organisations can respond in a positive and supportive way through reviewing their current working practices, and utilising and communicating their benefits programmes effectively.”

* https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/one-ten-male-diabetes-crisis

** http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Healthcare_activities_statistics_-_consultations

*** https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/news/five-surprising-and-shocking-facts-about-mens-health

**** https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/mens-health/11522080/At-last-a-prescription-weight-loss-service-designed-for-men.html